Massachusetts has recently become the eighteenth state to have voted in favor of the legalization of medicinal marijuana. By 2016, the legalization of recreational marijuana is predicted to be voted into law as well.  A Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll released in February 2014 found that 53 percent of likely Massachusetts voters “favor … the legalization of marijuana.” The applications processes for dispensaries have already started, and are projected to be open by the summer of 2014. So how will this affect the Massachusetts law of drugged driving?

Current Laws

Right now, marijuana is federally scheduled as a Class I drug, filing it under the same classification as heroin, LSD, and methamphetamine. The current consequences for driving under the influence of a Class I narcotic in Massachusetts are the same of those as driving under the influence of alcohol. According to drivinglaws.org, a first offender would currently receive a fine of up to $5000, a temporary license suspension, a court assigned treatment program, as well as a possibility of time in jail.  By making medical marijuana legal, it would no longer be scheduled as a Class I drug under Massachusetts law. In recent years, marijuana has already been decriminalized, making possession of less than one ounce only a civil offense, “subjecting an offender who is eighteen years of age or older to a civil penalty of one hundred dollars and forfeiture of the marihuana [sic]” (malegislature.gov).

Future Laws

Massachusetts legislature is currently trying to figure out how to go about making laws and consequences for medicinal marijuana. The Mass.gov  Final Regulations on Use of Marijuana for Medicinal Purposes in Massachusetts currently states that “A RMD (registered marijuana dispensary) shall provide educational materials about marijuana to registered qualifying patients and their personal caregivers,” and “a warning that when under the influence of marijuana, driving is prohibited by M.G.L. c. 90, s. 24, and machinery should not be operated.” This may eventually change, however, as studies have shown mixed results of driving while high on weed, and scientists are still working on ways to assess how being under the influence of marijuana affects drivers. Massachusetts will probably follow Colorado’s newest DUI laws.

According to The Denver Post, a motorist is presumed to be under the influence of marijuana if the driver’s blood contained 5 nanograms or more of active THC (delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol) per milliliter of blood at the time of driving. It can be tricky to figure out how each individual person is affected by pot, however, because THC is absorbed differently into the blood stream than alcohol.

However the new medicinal marijuana laws play out, just remember to be careful, and use your best judgment while under the influence. The best way to ensure your safety is to avoid driving when under the influence of any medications that have the potential to inhibit driving. If you have any questions or concerns about consequences of driving under the influence of drugs, or what to do if you have been pulled over, contact Revelli and Luzzo Law Offices on 446 Main Street in Worcester, MA, and we will be sure to help answer any inquiries you have.